Gmina Płaska, located in the center of the Augustów Canal Zone, is a typical touristic location. It is located in the north-eastern part of the Podlaskie Voivodeship, in the Augustów district and its eastern border is also a part of the country border. The gmina covers an area of 373 km2 and its total population is 2,700 people which make it one of the biggest Polish gmina. Because of the lowest population rate here (7.2 people/km2) the area is often referred to as a corner of peace and silence. As much as 82.2% of the total area is covered by forests with a large number of lakes and rivers which makes this location highly attractive to tourists. Most of the gmina’s area is covered by various forms of legal protection: protected landscape areas cover almost 60.3% of the area and 1.6% of its territory is covered by nature reserves. Gmina Płaska being located among forests, lakes and around one of the most beautiful water routes – the Augustów Canal – has a decisive influence on the tourist character of this area. One of the main attractions here are canoe trails on the Czarna Hańcza – Augustów Canal route. Bicycle paths and hiking trails encourage active recreation while admiring the nature of the Augustów Primeval Forest.
Due to the extraordinary landscape and natural values of this area, tourism is developing very dynamically here – each year the amount of agritourism lodgings, guesthouses and independent houses for rent is rising. These places are known for very good living conditions and affordable prices. What is more, local food courts offer delicious regional cuisine, such as: kartacze, soczewiaki, pierogi with blueberries or famous jagodzianki.
In Gmina Płaska there are also numerous places for camping. Nearby the most beautiful lakes of Augustów, such as: Serwy, Mikaszewo, Paniewo, you will find beaches and camping areas with a full tourist infrastructure – toilets, barbecue sheds, seat sheds, playgrounds, bridges and bonfire places.
The first preparatory works (marking out the areas, geological works, technical designs, preparation of ramps to construction sites of locks and others) for the construction of the Canal began on June 15, 1823. These works were run by two groups: one of them was a Polish team led by Colonel Ignacy Prądzyński and the second one was a Russian group led by Colonel Karol I. Reese. These works lasted until November 1823. In May 1824, Tsar Alexander I pre-approved the plans for the Augustów Canal so its construction officially began – formally, the plans were approved by the same Tsar but on the February 1st of 1825.
Before the outbreak of the November Uprising, most of the Augustów Canal was finished and ready to use. The construction of the Canal was completed in 1839 – it was financed from the budget of the Kingdom of Poland and then from the loans of the Polish Bank.
The Augustów Canal is definitely one of the most beautiful technical and natural monuments in Poland and perhaps – in Europe. It was created in the beautiful area of lakes and forests of the Augustów Primeval Forest. The truth is, it has never fulfilled its economic role but it plays a much more important one – it is a stimulator of tourism development and also a huge hope for economic revival of underdeveloped areas of the north-eastern part of Poland.
The tourists who are visiting Gmina Płaska have a great opportunity to see the work of engineers from the early 19th century. It’s safe to say they are not only able to see but also to experience the craftsmanship of construction or the wisdom and diligence of planners and the builders. Canoeing on the Augustów Canal is an unforgettable attraction of the summer time. Above the picturesque village of Mikaszówka, the Augustów Canal is fed by the waters of the Czarna Hańcza River. One of the Czarna Hańcza branches flows from Rygol as Smolnica or further as Czarna Hańcza and the other one flows into the Augustów Canal. Both of the branches eventually flow into the Niemen River (in Belarus). A canoeing trip along the Czarna Hańcza River and along the Augustów Canal trail, along with locks, is certainly an unusual adventure.